One thing that's stood out from the Socceroos at this World Cup is the one thing that hasn't been said. Not once has Ange Postecoglou or any of his squad offered an excuse.
Not once have they tried to manage expectations. Not once have they trotted out the line about injuries, suspensions, or even the "squad in transition" as a mitigating factor.
Since Postecoglou took the job in October and we first interviewed him in his new Sydney office, the message has been the same: We go out to win.
Proud performances against Chile and Holland have won over the public and bought the squad time to consolidate, regroup and recover with renewed confidence for the Asian Cup in January.
But from Ange's point of view that's irrelevant. He wants to win now, and without one, the campaign's been a failure.
The reality however is that there has been an abundance of excuses to cite if Ange wanted.
Instead, this tournament has been a remarkable display of the depth of talent available to Australia - something Holger Osieck was always at pain to deny existed.
Even before the campaign began, we had lost Robbie Kruse, Rhys Williams, Tom Rogic, Trent Sainsbury and Curtis Good to injury.
That's literally half the team right there.
Add Josh Kennedy failing to get fit for the start of the tournament, and the subsequent injuries to Mark Milligan, Mark Bresciano and Ivan Franjic, plus Tim Cahill's suspension for his second yellow.
As we go into the final game, literally only Tommy Oar and Mat Ryan remain from a probable ideal starting XI...and neither of them have been at their best so far.
Not only are we playing our reserve side at this World Cup (and getting world class results), but few, if any, of the players have even played together before.
Tim Cahill realised how he'd only played with most of this team three or four times. Ryan McGowan mentioned the backline against Holland had never lined up together even once before.
We've tended to think it is a youthful side Ange has taken, but it's not. It is however inexperienced, an inevitable consequence of the roadblock created by the Golden Generation and Osieck and Pim Verbeek's over-reliance on the same players, game after game.
But instead of being filtered into an evolving Socceroos set up, getting experience off the bench and forcing their way into the starting XI, instead they have been rushed into the new look Gen Next.
In the space of eight months, Ange has fostered an incredible sense of self belief in the Socceroos. Gone is the cautious approach of the past. Every single Socceroo now truly believes we can go out and do something special. And for the most part, they have, each one with their own separate reason to go out and shine.
Passion, self-belief and a point to prove are not enough in themselves, obviously, but matched with an elite level of professionalism and discipline, combined with five star support facilities, latest tech, carefully crafted fitness and training plans, video analysis and clever strategy, the Socceroos have been reborn.
Is that enough?
It has been creditable against Chile and the Dutch. With a full-strength side, we really could have sprung some serious upsets. In a few hours' time, we'll find out how our weakened but determined side matches up to a fractured Spain side in disarray.
One thing's for sure from Ange's perspective though. There'll be no excuse if we lose.comments